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Hawks at 47% capacity fighting Covid-19 looting

Government departments not providing information as requested, Covid-19, lack of capacity and a skills shortage are the never-changing challenges plaguing South Africa’s top law enforcement units, which are meant to bring to book those connected to the R3.5-billion Covid-19 looting spree.

The Hawks are dealing with 21 000 cases while there are fewer than 2 000 investigators, says General Godfrey Lebeya, the national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), or Hawks.

“We have said time and again we are operating on 47% capacity. We still need more resources. But from where we were and where we are, there is an improvement with regards to capacitation. We are moving towards that 100% which will take some time.”

Lebeya presented a joint report of the DPCI, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to parliament’s justice and correctional services portfolio committee. 

The committee did not welcome the presentation. 

To reiterate the government’s efforts to fight Covid-19 corruption, Lebeya briefly outlined the newly established fusion centre’s current state. According to Lebeya, 124 cases are currently registered at the fusion centre, with 99 under investigation, nine closed and 16 before the court. 

But the Democratic Alliance’s Glynnis Breytenbach said the report made things look rosy, “while that is not the case”. 

She vehemently disputed the sufficiency of the law enforcement agencies’ financial and human resources. Breytenbach also questioned the so-called cooperation between the units through the fusion centre, claiming it was not as new and seamless as presented. 

The chair of the committee, Gratitude Magwanishe, expressed his concern about what he considered inadequacies of the report.

“I don’t see any fundamental shift from the last presentation to this report. I don’t. There is nothing new. In all fairness, you are giving us an internal management report. This is something that needs to be addressed urgently.”

Mitigating the resourcing issue, Lebeya pointed out that the DPCI was getting an additional 103 personnel. He also added the “matter [of resources] is receiving attention at the highest levels within the DPCI to address the shortage of investigators”.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a junior daily news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She was previously a freelance journalist and a broadcaster at Maroela Media and Smile90.4FM.

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